“¢ No. 1 Jesuit-Carmichael (27-3) vs. No. 2 Rodriguez (26-2)
“¢ Saturday, March 8, 8:30 PM
HISTORY/STORYLINES: History is certainly on the side of the Marauders, who have won 8 Sac Joaquin Section titles and played many more “big games” on Sleep Train Arena’s big stage. Jesuit’s last Division I title was in 2000, but head coach Greg Harcos claimed back-to-back Division II championships in 2006 and 2007. Harcos also earned a title at Arco Arena as a player on the Marauders’ 1988 D-II title team.
The Mustangs fell to Folsom in the 2008 D-I championship at Arco Arena in the school’s only section finals appearance. The win over Merced in the arena will give Rodriguez confidence to play in the spacious NBA arena, and head coach Nathaniel Rankin’s experienced team (the Mustangs have 5 seniors and 6 juniors on the 13-man roster) will not likely be rattled by the magnitude of a large school title game.
OUTLOOK: Jesuit had to take a back seat to Delta River league rival Sheldon-Elk Grove in recent years as the Huskies captured the last four D-I titles, so the Marauders are plenty hungry to return to glory. Seniors Nick Hilton, Lake Lutes, and Brady Anderson, along with junior Isaiah Bailey have been steady performers all season long, and are anxious to make the rare down season of a year ago a distant memory. Rodriguez has relied on senior captains Rishod Abraham and Keanu Williams to lead a small, but talented group to a Monticello Empire League championship, and dream of the program’s first section crown. The Mustangs’ tallest player is 6-foot-4, while the Marauders boast a handful of giants, including Lutes (6-7) and Anderson (6-9). Abraham is a top talent in D-I and has received excellent support in the playoffs from senior Armani Reed and junior Kyle Williams. A hot-shooting Abraham will have to negate Jesuit’s size advantage to make history for the Mustangs.
“¢ No. 1 Folsom (28-2) vs. No. 6 Cosumnes Oaks-Elk Grove (14-16)
“¢ Saturday, March 8, 4:30 PM
HISTORY/STORYLINES: Folsom was the last team to win an SJS Division I title before Sheldon-Elk Grove captured the last four large school titles from 2010-2013. The Bulldogs won back-to-back D-I championships in 2008 and 2009 and have captured five overall section titles, including a D-II title in 2000. Head coach Mike Wall has coached three teams to section titles when you add the 1997 Foothill-Sacramento title to his two recent titles with Folsom.
Cosumnes Oaks has never won a section basketball championship or even appeared in a final, but the opportunity is not a major surprise despite the team’s sub-.500 record. The Wolf Pack has lost just one game on the court this season, but had to forfeit 15 victories for playing an ineligible player earlier in the season. The team’s lone loss came back in December at the hands of SoCal power Heritage-Brentwood, and head coach Patrick Roth’s group has won 28 straight games, at least as far as the scoreboard is concerned.
OUTLOOK: The Bulldogs are young and dangerous, starting all underclassmen, including star point guard Jordan Ford. Ford, who will attract plenty of attention from recruiters in the years to come, has an opportunity to make a splash as a sophomore with a section title and the possible start of a dynasty. Fellow sophomore Jared Wall teams with Ford to be one of Northern California’s best young backcourts while junior Josiah Deguara provides toughness at the forward position despite standing just 6-foot-3. The Wolf Pack has talent on the inside and outside with smart guard play from co-captain Matt Muldavin and Jaaron Stallworth to go along with tough post play from Eric Toles, Jr. and L.J. Reed. Senior co-captain Alex Van Dyke, who is headed to UCLA on a football scholarship has been especially effective at forward with fellow wide receiver Reed as Cosumnes Oaks has recorded come-from-behind victories in each of their last two playoff games. This promises to be a final worthy of the loaded division that got fans so excited, and it will likely come down to the wire. Despite their youth, Folsom can steal some of the attention from the school’s back-to-back section champion football program with a victory Saturday.
“¢ No. 1 Modesto Christian (21-8) vs. No. 3 Fairfield (25-5)
“¢ Friday, March 7, 9:00 PM
HISTORY/STORYLINES: The Crusaders have won 9 section titles in the last 10 years, including the 2013 Division III championship. The Modesto Christian dynasty has captured 15 section championships since 1997, and a pair of Division V state titles in 1997 and 2004 while sending loads of talent to Division I programs. Alum Chuck Hayes went on to the NBA via the University of Kentucky, playing for the Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings, and now the Toronto Raptors.
The Falcons are seeking their first-ever Sac Joaquin Section boys basketball title after finishing as runner-up in the Solano County Athletic League to No. 2 seed Vanden, who they defeated in the semifinals for a shot at Modesto Christian. Fairfield has reached five section finals, but has yet to enjoy the sweet taste of victory on the Sacramento Kings’ home floor. The Falcons’ most recent attempts at section glory came in three consecutive runs in Division II from 2007-09 where they lost the three games by a combined 15 points.
OUTLOOK: Despite the loss of graduating talent, Modesto Christian reloaded with junior Anthony Townes as the focal piece of a potent offense and stifling defense. Coaches Gary Porter and Richard Midgley will have their talented group ready for another shot at a run in the State Open Division if they can remain near-perfect against section foes. Just one of the Crusaders’ 8 losses this season has come against a Sac Joaquin Section team. The Falcons ignored an 0-2 record against league and local rival Vanden to rout the Vikings to earn another title shot, so their 0-5 section finals record may be a moot point. Senior DeMoriaye Hart-Spikes led Fairfield in the semifinal with a team-high 21 points, but getting the monkey off of their backs will depend on the help he gets from a supporting cast that includes seniors Javon Adams, Sean Gray, and John Jones, and junior Anthony Bryant.
“¢ No. 1 Encina Prep-Sacramento (27-3) vs. No. 2 Natomas (18-8)
“¢ Saturday, March 8, 3:00 PM
HISTORY/STORYLINES: These two opponents have just three section titles between them, with the Nighthawks holding a 2-1 edge in SJS championships. The Bulldogs captured the 1997 D-IV title and fell in the 2002 final while Natomas has won both times it has advanced to the section final to earn back-to-back D-III crowns in 1999 and 2000.
OUTLOOK: Encina has relied on seniors Nate Jefferson, Donald Jackson, and Dajon Green for most of the season, but it was junior Matthew Coleman who sank a clutch three-pointer as time expired to force overtime in the semifinals. Head coach Freddie Bryant’s team has had a singular focus on league and section titles since the players finished the 2013 season, and achieving those goals is certainly within reach. Natomas’ up-tempo offense is quarterbacked by freshman point guard Mekhi Williams, who should have enough experience from a challenging Tri-County Conference schedule and playoff games to be a floor leader for head coach Brian Hamilton. Seniors Jalen Manning and Phillip Morgan are the steady elder statesmen who will provide a steadying influence on the Nighthawks’ young guns.
“¢ No. 1 Capital Christian-Sacramento (25-3) vs. No. 3 Central Catholic-Modesto (25-5)
“¢ Friday, March 7, 5:30 PM
HISTORY/STORYLINES: Capital Christian has won the last two D-V section titles and is probably stronger this year than in those past years. Since losing five consecutive section titles to Modesto Christian from 2003-07, the Cougars have established themselves as a Sac Joaquin Section and NorCal power. Capital Christian has not lost to a section team since a February 2013 loss to Golden Empire League foe West Campus. Central Catholic denied a rematch of last year’s section final while earning a shot at redemption after the Raiders lost to the Cougars in the 2012 D-V final. The Raiders’ lone section championship came in 1988 in Division V.
OUTLOOK: The Cougars won the section crown last year without the services of Michigan-bound senior D.J. Wilson, so head coach Devon Jones may be confident even if he is never comfortable until the final buzzer. Seniors Wilson, Tyler Jennings, Uchenna Iroegbu, and Nifae Lealao, Jr. all have their sights set on a section title to launch the team toward a shot at the State Open Division crown. The Raiders are an experienced group with four solid seniors in Jonathan Boddie, Joe Hamilton, Donovin Townsend, and Jourdan Johnson providing head coach Mike Wilson with a shot at an upset win. Central Catholic outscored Brookside Christian-Stockton 35-17 in the second half, including a 22-8 advantage in the fourth quarter, to erase a 30-21 halftime deficit in the semifinal, so the Raiders are capable of a surprise at Sleep Train Arena on Friday night.
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